Monday, November 19, 2012

A Raccoon's Sunday Nap

Two weeks ago on our way home from church, we passed a Raccoon napping in a tree not far the road. We stopped on the shoulder to let the kids get a good look, and it didn't even stir. Unfortunately, my usual experience with seeing a Raccoon is dead at the side of the road. By then they are often bloated with decay, making them look huge. Although un-moving, this one was quite alive, and as far as I could tell, a pretty large Raccoon.

The view from the road.

I headed back there with the camera once the family was dropped off at home. I parked a little ways off, not wanting to startle it awake. That was not necessary. At first I quietly approached, but the Raccoon was either so sound asleep or unconcerned with my presence that it didn't stir a bit.

Sleeping Raccoon

I couldn't figure out how this Raccoon was sleeping in that position... aside from seeming rather uncomfortable, it looked like it was depending on holding on with its front legs. I'd think it would be hard to sleep holding on to something. What I didn't do to stir the Raccoon, a dog from the adjacent home did. It must have been alerted to my movement and came noisily barking at me. This did stir the Raccoon enough to stare it down for a bit, albeit rather slowly and groggily. He paid me no attention until the dog headed its master's call, even though I was a short distance away compared to the dog that was kept further at bay, likely by an invisible fence evidenced by the flags and collar.

Raccoon woken by a dog.

After that he settled down on a branch again and casually eyed me from his perch in the tree above me. So casually, although I'd walk to the other side of the tree, it seemed unconcerned and refused to turn around to allow the sun to light his face. So almost all my shots had to be back lit.

Raccoon keeping an eye on me.

Raccoon lounging in the tree.

One interesting thing I learned about Raccoons while doing this post, is that they have whisker like hairs on top of their paws which allow them to sense and identify objects without even making direct contact with their skin.

Intelligent eyes of  a Raccoon

Getting pictures of birds is nice, but the wildlife around us is less often seen and more a challenge to see and photograph. So this was a welcome variation in the picture subjects.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

On the Way to a Meeting

About two weeks ago, I took my lunch hour very late in the day, adding it to a trip I had to make to City Hall in Burlington for a project meeting.  I first made a quick stop at Valley Inn Road.  There weren't a lot of birds, but the welcome sunshine and balmy temperature made a quick stop there enjoyable.  A new bird (life bird #102) made the stop very worthwhile.

A Golden-crowned Kinglet was meandering its way through the wildflower greenery that bordered a walking path.  It was very comfortable with me being quite close, meaning a number of almost full frame shots.  At that range though, it was hard to stay ahead the little bird and I struggled to get more than just rear end shots.

Golden-crowned Kinglet

More rear views.
Golden-crowned Kinglet foraging through the wildflowers

Golden-crowned Kinglet eating wildflower seeds.

Golden-crowned Kinglet eating a fly.
A few other birds were there as well, my first Hooded Mergansers of the fall mixed in with the usual Mallards and gulls. A Black-capped Chickadee landed close in front of me to pull a few seeds from the goldenrod which were changing from their summer, bright yellow to fall, soft white.

Mallard Duck in flight.

Black-capped Chickadee feeding on Goldenrod seeds.

A lone Double-crested Cormorant was sunning on the shore one of the Valley Inn Road ponds, and with a  closer look, I noticed that sadly, it had a deformed wing.  Unless it's a mild winter, I'm not sure it will survive.

Double-crested Cormorant with deformed wing.

After my meeting, I headed to LaSalle Park in Burlington with the remainder of my "lunch hour" time.  To be clear, regularly my lunch hours often disappear into work hours at the office.  So I'm not advocating shifty use of my work day hours at the expense of my employer!

View from LaSalle Park across Hamilton Harbour looking
at the Industrial shore of Hamilton.

There were lots of Mallard Ducks, and a gather of Swans.  People regularly feed the waterfowl there by the bucket full.

Mallard Duck drake.

Mallard Duck

There is a small tail there which starts from the parking lot and splits to a short boardwalk through the forest or heads along the shore of the harbour.  With the sun out after a number of gloomy days, the birds were active.  A few Downy Woodpeckers were drumming the trees.

Downy Woodpecker

There were also a number of Golden-crowned Kinglets flitting about through the trees.  Their movement is similar to Chickadees, though their foraging calls are a softened, higher pitched peeping call, almost monotone.  They will often hover trying to pick off bugs that are at the end of leaves or that have tried to escape the little birds.  Similar to Chickadees, these birds are constantly moving.  With a straight on view, they have a comical looking face as thy have two dark lines that trail down from their beaks.

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Golden-crowned Kinglet

I met another photographer gentleman (Rey, please email me if you read this) there and talked for a while.  During our chat, I first thought I was being distracted by a nuthatch.  But it was well camouflaged to the tree, and was going up, not down as is typical of the former.  It was quite far up in a huge, beautiful, old Oak tree.  The best picture I could capture was the one below.  Upon looking at a zoomed in few on my camera screen, and checking my Sibley's app on my phone, realized it was a Brown Creeper.  I've never even seen or heard of this bird before so it was kind of an exciting moment.  (Life bird #102)  The shot below is heavily cropped with lots of sharpening!

Brown Creeper
(in this picture, actually moving down the
tree rather than its characteristic movement up)

On my wayback, I chased a small flock of Dark-eyed Juncos that have moved into the area for the winter. Along with them was one lone White-throated Sparrow which was life bird #103 for me.  Not sure why, but I had never seen one of these before till now.  The light was really getting low and I was badly in need of heading home for the night.

White-throated Sparrow with
Dark-eyed Juncos (male (right) and female (left))

So, I was thankful to be able to combine being outside on a beautiful day with a work errand, and got three new life birds to boot!

Late afternoon sun shining through fall
colours of Oak Trees at LaSalle Park

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Nursery Tails

Fall is here, and the Mountain Ash in our front yard has become its usual attraction for Robins and Cedar Waxwings.  Though this year, there seem to be much fewer of the latter.  Then again, we've been outside less with all the rain we've had.

American Robin in  Mountain Ash

There were only about five Waxwings in our front yard, and they are much more skittish than the robins.  This was the only one that looked like an adult.  The others still had mottled looking juvenile feathers.

Cedar Waxwing in the neighbour's
Cedar tree.

But I was headed to the nursery for the morning to get some shrubs, replacing the ones from our recent garden renovation that didn't make it during the "drought" this summer.  As I headed over to the nursery, I saw a number of Red-tailed hawks.  This one was perched in a small tree on the opposite side of the road.  Birds are designed with so many features to allow them to achieve flight.  The large size of a hawk like this is deceiving in relation to weight, and seeing them on a small branch at the top of a tree would seem that it would end up breaking its perch.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

It flew to a Spruce tree nearby and displayed the red tail it is named for.

Red tail of a Red-tailed Hawk.

Red-tailed Hawk
At the nursery, I discovered a few birds enjoying the dense groupings of plant stock as cover to search for food.  A few Yellow-rumped Warblers were there, and after my first introduction to them in waning light, I was glad to be able to run back to the car and grab my camera and get some pictures at ISO 400 instead of 3200!  This one perched nicely on top of the greenhouse hoops.  Once down in the plants, it was impossible to get a picture with a more natural looking setting. The foliage was too dense and they were too quick.

Yellow-rumped Warbler.

When they fly, you can see why they are called what they are... the bright flash of yellow is more obvious from the rear as their wings move to take flight.

Yellow-rumped Warbler.

Not a bad day... got an errand done and saw a few birds along the way.